Saturday, November 23, 2013

MP's Pursuit of Happiness :-)

This week, I received an email from a student going through some difficult times. In her email, she said, “you are probably the nicest and happiest person I have ever met.” Her kind words touched my heart and really had me thinking about happiness. Happiness seems so idealistic. With life’s many imperfections it can seem impossible to attain. However, life has taught me that happiness is attainable. It is not circumstantial nor is it something anyone can just be. You have to make the conscious choice to be happy and that is not always an easy task. You have to work towards it every day.  Sometimes it just seems easier to loathe in misery, crawl into a corner, and expect things in life to magically get better. But as we all know, things don’t get better that way. Letting the bumps in the road of life get the better of us is a great deal of time wasted and time is too precious to be wasted in selfish pity. I’m honored that my dear student views my happiness with such high regards. She inspired me to think about my happiness in a bit more depth, and so I have decided to share some of the ways I work towards happiness. These are 15 ways by which I express one of my unalienable rights, the pursuit of Happiness:

1. Smile-

I try to smile as often as I can. Even when everything is falling apart and the last thing I want to do is smile, I do it anyway. It lifts me higher, and does the same thing for all of those around me. Smiles are the most highly contagious methods of spreading happiness. It is very rare when I give a smile and it isn’t returned. A simple smile can make a huge difference in someone’s day. It doesn’t even require you to say one word. So, why not just smile?  

2. Focus on being kind to everyone-

Kindness is also highly contagious. I try to put my judgments to the side and treat all people with kindness. That kindness may not be returned. But, I make a constant effort to be kind anyway and perhaps inspire others to do the same.

3. Forgive-

I’ve learned that it’s much easier to move on from the hurt caused by the behavior of others rather than dwell on it. This can be very challenging, but it has been fundamental to freeing my spirit from the weight that grudges put on it. Often times, I forgive those who haven’t even said sorry. It’s not easy, but I just do it. Some may say I’m a push over. I say I’m happy.

4. Let your guard down-

I truly believe that there are significantly more good people out there than bad. Assuming the worst in everyone brings out the worst in me. I try to keep my guard down and trust in the good in people. This also applies to opportunities. I focus on being open-minded, confident, and fearless when it comes to trying new things. There is so much in life to be discovered when you are open to it!

5. Accept that some people have it better-

There will always be someone who is prettier, with a bigger house, faster race times, etc. Dwelling on the things that others have that I don’t only creates unnecessary animosity, mostly with myself. It’s hard to feel fulfilled when I am constantly comparing what I have to the things that other people have. Instead, I work hard to not compare myself to other people. I focus on myself as a standard of comparison and strive to be a better version of me, not anyone else.

6. Celebrate the successes of others-

Everyone has a natural tendency towards jealousy. I choose to rise above those feelings. I love celebrating in the great moments in other people’s lives. It is awesome seeing the joy in others as they achieve their goals and do great things. I live for inspiration! Plus, when I am happy for other people, I feel happy, too. So, it’s a win-win!

7. Surround yourself by people who lift you higher-

Misery loves company. If I spend time around negative, unmotivated individuals, it brings me down. Instead, I choose to be around uplifting, loving people who are trying to better themselves and the world around them. I also try to be around people who like me. The majority of my free time is spent with my family and close friends. Spending time with people who do not like me for one reason or another is draining and exhausting. When I can control it, I try to avoid my haters!

8. Be honest-

I always tell it like it is. Love it or hate it, you will never have to guess what I’m thinking. Being disingenuous stirs negative feelings and resentment. I think it’s best to be up front rather than passive aggressive and frustrated.

9. Focus on the positive-

This is the most obvious method of being happy! I always choose to dig into the positive in all situations. It’s challenging, but a really important part of being happy. Life isn't perfect and you shouldn't expect it to be. But, with a glass half-full perspective, life is just easier. And, you are just happier.

10. Don’t keep score-

Do good just to do good! If you are always expecting what you put out to be returned, you are setting yourself up to be really disappointed. Most of the good things people do are without recognition or a pay back. It can be hard doing good when it feels unappreciated. But, choose to do good anyway. The great that comes with doing good for others surpasses what any acknowledgement could provide anyway.

11. Have faith-

Whatever your faith might be, I believe having faith in a higher being is so important. My personal faith in God has gotten me through the most challenging and loneliest of times. I am confident in God’s plan for me, and because of Him I strive to be a better person everyday.

12. Dream-

Just about everything I’ve accomplished in my life has been rooted in a dream. Dreams might seem silly at the time, but they are the foundation of greatness. Dreams give us passions, motivation, and reasons to be happy!

13. Be patient-

Most things don’t happen as quickly as we wish. Getting that great job promotion, meeting the perfect guy, having that big house, etc might not come in an instant. Persevere and don’t give up. If you really want it, it will come! Being impatient and taking the quick route may not lead to happiness.  If you are patient, you will get what God has planned for you. It may take more time than you would like, but ultimately you will get what you need…and you will be happy!

14. Give-

There is nothing in my life that has lifted me higher than centering myself on giving back to others. As a teacher, my career provides me with the perfect instrument to carry this out. I try to do this in all of my life’s aspects and as often as I can. Giving my time to be there for a friend, spending time playing my nephews, or giving a $1 to feed the needy when I’m checking out at Giant Eagle, no matter how big or small I try to give anywhere and anyway I can. It is through giving that others are also inspired to give. I believe it’s our responsibly to take care of each other, whether it’s through kindness or monetary donations. Some may say I’m too giving or too nice. I say I’m happy.

15. Just be yourself-

The key to be truly fulfilled is when you are true to being no one else but YOU. We all have something great and exceptional to bring to this world. If we were all the same and did the same thing, from an evolutionary perspective our species would die out! We are meant to be individuals with our own set of unique traits. But, when you are true to being you, it’s only natural that some people won’t like you. It’s just how it is. When you stop trying to please everyone and accept that some people simply don’t like you, that’s when true happiness is all yours! So, own up to all of your weird little quarks. Love yourself, embrace who you are, and give the world all you’ve you got!

That wraps up the 15 ways by which I express my right to the pursuit of Happiness. I am far from perfect. I’m not happy all the time. But, it’s something I strive for and will continue to strive for. Take some time to think about what makes you happy and center your life on pursuing it. It’s your unalienable right to do so. Life is so much more Liberating when we pursue to live it Happily!

Sunday, November 3, 2013


It’s been two months since I’ve laid my Garmin to rest. It’s buried somewhere deep in the mess of my bottom desk drawer. The date by which it will be dug out is TBD--to be determined! I haven’t even entertained the thought of rescuing it from this idle state it has not been victim of since it was taken from its package in 2009. But, the current negligence of my Garmin does not devalue the meaning that this advanced piece of running equipment has for me. It has a bigger place in my running heart than any pair of running shoes I own.  It has been my consistent training buddy for the past four years, by my side through the thick and thin. We have been inseparable and I have the utmost gratitude for the guidance it has provided me. This bulky device, resembling an Inspector Gadget watch, has been there with me through it all, always leaving behind a nice tan line on my right wrist that has served as a constant reminder of the glorious journey. I couldn’t escape the memory of every hard tempo run, blistering speed work session, beautiful long run, and heart-pounding race of every distance that I conquered in the rain, snow, sleet, and bright sunshine thanks to my Garmin. It has challenged me to be the best runner I can be, beeping at me when I’m going to slow and shining at me when I’m coasting to a P.R. But my Garmin has provided me more than just record of my mileage and pace throughout my runs. It has also been a token of the people that have supported me, as it was a gift for my 27th birthday from my dear sister Kristin who has been by my side throughout all of the peaks and valleys of my running career. With this heavy watch weighing on my wrist, I always had this light, uplifting reminder of the good people with me helping me reach my goals. I truly believe my Garmin, for all of these reasons, has transformed me into the runner I am today.  As I have made the decision to take a step back in my marathon training, giving it time to rest has been just as important of a decision as the first time I put it on. It has forced me to take the necessary step back my body has been begging for, and have since fully committed myself to a marathon training break.

Since my marathon journey began in May of 2009, I’ve been a running machine. I’ve been running marathon after marathon, accomplishing some truly amazing things I never sought possible for myself. However, it goes without saying that I’ve hit some bumps in the road (or should I say, the worst potholes imaginable) and have never truly given my body and mind time to heal from those bumps (and potholes!). This inability to step back has been detrimental to me physically, mentally, and emotionally. I had defined myself so much by my running accomplishments that I lost a sense of who I really am and what running really means to me. My committed hiatus has turned out to be the best blessing in my running career. It has helped heal my hidden inner bleeding wounds, appreciate all of the blessings in my life, and to my surprise, helped rekindle the love of running I once had.

I’ve been spending this fall focusing on the positive and moving past the negative, which includes supporting my running friends as they accomplish their big goals. I’ve been spectating races where I can and in some cases hopping onto the course to give a few friends the extra “boost” they needed to get to the finish line. I’ve been following the leaderboards of races at home, watching in awe as my running buddies move their way into the next phases of their phenomenal running careers. What had me most inspired this fall was witnessing my students defy the impossible and put it all on the line to win their local division in Cross Country for the first time. This fall has been awesome. I have not been able to feel anything but excited, happy, and above-and-beyond inspired to turn this hiatus I’m on into something great!

Although I’m not training, my running has not discontinued. But, it’s a different kind of running than what I’ve been committed to for the past four years. It’s running by leisure, enjoyment, and exercise. It’s about clearing my head and staying in shape. It’s about learning how to be okay with getting out there, and not worrying about the potential for passing out. The fear and anxiety I thought would never go away is slipping away, run after run. I’m dreaming again, step-by-step, of the possibilities of the future.  I’m getting myself set up to re-learn the comfort in discomfort so I can I reach the goals God has set out for me. 

In the meantime, the “building the new” as I mentioned in my last blog post isn’t as aggressive as those who know me would expect. I’m focusing on just “being” for a while. I am chilling out from this need for constant accomplishment, and am just “being" the best teacher, sister, daughter, aunt, friend and pseudo-coach I can be. I LOVE sharing my running experiences and knowledge with my friends as they are reaching their running goals and LOVE the extra time I have to just “be.” I feel great, am healthy, and haven’t had a migraine since September! 

As I have been taking the back seat over these past few months, I’ve done a great deal of reflecting on my running accomplishments. Although I have great pride in all that I’ve done, I know in my heart that there is more out there for me. I have successfully conquered the distance, but I believe my lack of recovery in between marathons has left me at a point of mediocrity in my performance. I’m very proud to I have run 9 Boston Qualifying marathons in such a short period of time, but BQing is now an outdated goal for me. In fact, running a sub 3:20 is an outdated goal for me. If I’m going to run another marathon, I want it to be a true challenge. I want to put my potential to the test, because I’m still unsure of exactly what that is. It’s TBD—to be determined!  If I’m going to attempt this true challenge of my potential, I need to be completely prepared. To be completely prepared, I need to stay true to my break until I’m fully ready to give all of myself to the challenge. I need to be healthy, physically and mentally, and cognizant of the mistakes I’ve made in the past that have lead me to the E.R. The days of training alone are over, and if I am going to attempt big goals it’s going to be with a coach or knowledgeable, experienced training partners. I do not believe I can do what I want to without the guidance of others to get me there. And if I’m not going to do it right, there’s no point in doing it all. My Garmin has been a great training buddy, and I plan on wiping off the dust on it when I begin my training journey again, but it can’t be my sole trainer. If I train for another marathon, I am committed to making it a completely different type of experience and doing it right. 

I don’t have a time stamp on my hiatus. I just want to continue to “be” for a while, and when the time feels right I will make my moves. I went from a 4:29 marathoner to a 3:18 marathoner in just one year, and know that I have the potential to do something really awesome if I do it right. The great things that come in life only happen when you are willing to take risks. Risks are so much more worth taking when you know that there will always be people there to catch you when you fall. Thank you to everyone for all of your support throughout the turbulence of my running journey. I couldn’t have done it without you!

The Garmin will stay at rest for the time being. The future is TBD. And for now, I’ll continue on just “being” MP. ;-)